Moses has been one of the go-to men for freedom-loving Americans of nearly every generation, race and religion. Now the ancient Jewish leader is the subject of a new book and a planned film.
The new book is “America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story” by Bruce Feiler. Feiler is the best-selling author of “Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses” as well as other religious pilgrimage tomes like “Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion” and “Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths.”
Feiler’s new book is also getting a lift from a Time magazine story about Moses, written by Feiler himself. Feiler’s piece in Time tantalizes the reader, going beyond inclusion of the more obvious invocations of Moses’ life, like Martin Luther King Jr. telling an audience the night before he died: “And I’ve seen the promised land. And I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
Feiler offers some of America’s less well-known history: that, right after signing the Declaration of Independence, when Congress had Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to propose a seal for the new nation, their suggestion featured Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea.
In sifting through America’s shrouded but not secret history, “America’s Prophet” almost functions as a companion to Dan Brown’s latest novel, “The Lost Symbol,” in which Brown’s famed symbologist, Robert Langdon, gets sucked into a Masonic secret at the very heart of America.
Feiler deals with a bit of Freemasonry, too, as he makes his own attempt to uncover the real and intellectual links among Masons, George Washington, Moses and an inaugural ceremony.
And if that’s not enough to pique the interest of Americans, Feiler also takes on the relationship between Moses and – Superman. In one paragraph, Feiler does a name deconstruction of the two worthy of Robert Langdon himself.
On top of that, Variety now reports that Twentieth Century Fox is developing a “retelling” of the Moses story, and it has hired two writers who recently wrote a smack-down version of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”
“‘Moby Dick’ was pitched as a ‘300’-like reimagining of the Melville story as a visually stunning action piece, and the story of Moses is conceived similarly,” Variety reports. “The goal is to give a ‘Braveheart’ feel to a story most famously captured in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 film ‘The Ten Commandments.'”
The films “300” and “Braveheart” are epically violent.
Just a few years ago, Cecil B. DeMille’s masterpiece was reissued on DVD to commemorate the classic’s 50th anniversary.
The film begins with DeMille himself onscreen. He calls Moses’ story “the story of the birth of freedom” and asks: “Are men the property of the state, or are they free souls under God? This same battle continues throughout the world today.”
The “Technicolor extravaganza” starred Charlton Heston, who would turn up seven years later at the March on Washington – a moment emblematic of a civil-rights movement that looked to Moses as a freedom-leader in a way substantively different than America’s founding fathers had.
“Go!” says Heston in the film’s last line. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” It’s a verse from Leviticus 25:10, which is also inscribed on the Liberty Bell.
So Moses and America go way back, but as Feiler notes in his Time article, the applications are ever with us. As Feiler offers some lessons that Obama might take from Moses, one stands out: “the one on Sinai takes the heat.”
“The Bible outlines at least a dozen rebellions in which the people attempt to overthrow Moses,” writes Feiler. “In a striking parallel to Obama, the Israelites even question Moses’ birthright: ‘Who made you leader over us?'”
It was 2008 when Obama was elected president and 1968 when King saw the promised land. Hey, that’s a difference of 40 years.
Ring a bell?
Cliff Vaughn is managing editor and media producer for EthicsDaily.com.